An Unbeatable Combination!

An Unbeatable Combination!

by Virginia Carroll

Since I began drawing with colored pencils, I have searched for techniques and materials that would not only improve my skills and enhance my drawings, but would be a faster way to give me the end result I desired. Finally, I think I have found the perfect trio of tools and materials that work together to accomplish all that! Those three things are good artist grade colored pencil (of course!), the Icarus Board and a specific drafting film, Grafix .005 both sides matte.

The Scotsman - the first portrait I did on Grafix .005 Drafting Film.

Early on when I began working with colored pencil, I tried working on an unknown brand and weight of drafting film that I had used at work on which I drew maps. There were some qualities about colored pencil on this drafting film that I really liked, such as really fine and precise detail and bright color. However, there were, equally, things that I did not like at all. These were the inability to lay down more than three (at the most!) layers of pencil, the inability to achieve any really good darks and the fact that, if I was not careful, the film would irreparably crease. Knowing little about drafting film, I didn’t realize that there were other better quality films and so put drafting film aside and sought other supports on which to work.

“Since I began drawing with colored pencils, I have searched for techniques and materials that would not only improve my skills and enhance my drawings, but would be a faster way to give me the end result I desired.”

Soon after they were available, I purchased an Icarus Board! I found that the heat really soften the pencil leads and made it possible to put pencil down more opaquely and thus reduce the need for many layers in order to complete a drawing. As an example, for a blue sky, I found I could do it with one heavy layer of a light blue such as Prismacolor Powder Blue. You can imagine the time this can save! Even better, Ester Roi now offers a “Painting Board” which has the whole surface heated. I generally keep a folded dishcloth close by on which to rest my hand/arm, as I tend to work with the thermostat turned up full. The Painting Board is metal so that you can use strong magnets to hold your work to the board. This is a great improvement….no tape or pinholes! I’ve used an Icarus Board now for 10 or 11 years and can’t imagine working without it.

Sun Blossom - The largest piece (33" X 22") I've done on Grafix .005 Drafting Film.

There has been a great improvement in colored pencils since I began using them in 2006. Some of the newest brands of pencils are strongly lightfast. This is important because I feel if we are to expect colored pencil to be accepted as a valid art medium and for collectors and clients to be willing to pay the prices our work deserves, there has to be the expectation that the work will not fade or change color due to the action of light on the color! I still use a lot of Prismacolor pencils (only the lightfast ones!) because they work so well on the Icarus Board, but my other favorites for the Icarus Board and the drafting film are Derwent Lightfast, Luminance and Polychromos.

“The combination of excellent lightfast colored pencils, my beloved Icarus Board and Grafix .005 both side matte is an unbeatable combination!”

Back to drafting film and my discovery of Grafix .005 both side matte film…this was because of finding a Facebook group called “Artworks On Drafting Film!” A friend and I were starting to fool around with drafting film again. I was encountering the same issues as before, but my pencil skills had improved over the years and I thought I might be able to make it work better for me. One day my friend emailed me and told me that there was a Facebook group that was all about working on drafting film. I checked it out and found some remarkable tips, but the primary one was that quite a few of the members were using Grafix .005 both sides matte and were getting wonderful results. I immediately ordered some and tried it out as soon as it was delivered. I found that their praise of this film was fully deserved! Firstly, it was much thicker than what I had used before and not at all prone to bend or crease…a great improvement! Secondly, I couldn’t believe how heavily I could put down pencil color and that I could achieve the really good darks that I so prize in my work. Additionally, I was able to lay down an amazing number of layers. For example, in portraiture, I really like to use Ann Kullberg’s Skin Tone Bar that she established some years ago which works for me. As a test of the Grafix film, I decided to try a portrait on this film to see how many of the 21 layers in the Skin Tone Bar I could put down. I was astounded that in the darkest shadows, I was able to achieve all 21 layers. Also, the advantage of being able to work on the back as well as the front of the film adds a further dimension!

Ceremonial - Complex drawing with good darks and good color saturation done on Grafix .005 Drafting Film. Work done on front and back.

So, that’s the story of my journey to discover ways to improve my work and work faster. The combination of excellent lightfast colored pencils, my beloved Icarus Board and Grafix .005 both side matte is an unbeatable combination! I am able to work on pieces of film as small as 5” X 7” up to something as a large as 33” X 22” (my largest so far) without any concern of bending or creasing and work really fast. I recently completed a fairly sizable complex portrait of someone wearing a ceremonial Indian costume on a piece of 24” X 18” Grafix film and was able to complete it in a breathtaking 5 ¼ days. It has lots of darks and great color saturation.

I hope this will inspire you to give this great combination a try and see what it can do for you!

About Virginia Carroll:

Though Virginia has been involved in artistic endeavors from early childhood, she didn’t discover the art of Colored Pencil until 2006 and hasn’t worked in any other medium since that time. She is constantly searching for new materials that will enhance her work. Virginia’s Colored Pencil work has won countless awards, has been shown in many local and international exhibits and has been published in books and magazines.

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Comments (9)

Excellent article, Virginia!

Helen Rowles - Jun 21, 2021

You rock, Virginia!

Paula Olson - Jun 21, 2021

Looks great, Virginia! Congratulations!
I always enjoy your techniques even though I stick with my same old same old.

Lorena Moore - Jun 21, 2021

Nice article and beautiful work, Virginia!

Sandy Phifer - Jun 21, 2021

Nicely done Virginia! I’ve learned so many helpful techniques from you.

Mary A. Carlson - Jun 21, 2021

Great explanation of your techniques.

Maureen Lueck - Jun 21, 2021

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Virginia! Very well done, and beautiful work!

Kathy Sieloff - Jun 21, 2021

Thanks, all of you for your kind words and comments!

Virginia Carroll - Jun 21, 2021

Great info. Are you matting and framing your work and/or have you found a way to mount the film on a panel?

Kathryn Regel - Jun 21, 2021

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